As part of the Dairy-Beef series, NCBC Beef Program Manager Rose Goulding visits a number of dairy farms throughout the country to highlight the critical role that the dairy farmer plays in ensuring viable and profitable calf to beef systems by using NCBC beef sires high in Beef Sub Index and Carcass Weight.

In Episode 1, Rose talks to Wexford based dairy farmer Eoin McDonald, to discuss his criteria when it comes to bull selection and the importance of building and maintaining a strong relationship with his calf buyer. Rose also speaks to calf buyer Declan Butler to discuss his calf selection criteria and the challenges he faced prior to becoming part of the ABP Advantage Beef Programme and catches up with Oisin Lynch from ABP to discuss the programme.

Dairy Beef Index (DBI)

Eoin uses almost 100% AI on his 121-cow spring calving herd. He places great emphasis on the EBI in his dairy breeding programme. Prior to the breeding season, he identifies his best performing cows in the herd and breeds them to high EBI dairy sires in order to ensure that he can continually make genetic gain within his herd. More recently, Eoin has started to pay as much attention to the index of the beef sires he is using on his dairy herd. He pays particular attention to the traits within the DBI, such as the Calving Ease, Gestation Length, Beef Sub-Index and Carcass Weight to ensure that he maximises the value of his calf crop, while minimising calving difficulty. He does this by selecting different sires for his maidens, 2nd calvers and mature cows. For the upcoming breeding season, Eoin is targeting sires with a minimum Beef Sub-Index of €90 and a minimum Carcass Weight figure of +9kgs.

Bull Selection

Eoin selects his sires from the NCBC Breeding Programme. NCBC runs Ireland’s largest beef and dairy breeding programmes for their shareholders, Progressive Genetics and Munster Bovine.

Some of the NCBC sires Eoin used last year were HE6841 Gouldingpoll 1 Zoro PP, AA4088 Intelagri Maverick, AA4089 Intelagri Matteo, AA4631 Gabriel Pat and Moneyman BB7221. For more information on our full range of bulls for the upcoming breeding season, please visit Progressive Genetics or Munster Bovine.

Eoin also noted how he can now maximise the quality and consequently the value of his calf crop by using a range of sires and breeds on his dairy females depending on the parity. He selects sires high in Beef Sub-Index and Carcass Weight with the appropriate level of calving difficulty for the type and parity of the female; easy calving, highly reliable sires are used on maidens and 2nd calvers. Particular attention is paid to short gestation at the end of the season.

This is possible due to the genetic strides that have been made in recent years with the NCBC Beef Breeding Programme, whereby calving ease of the sires has been maintained while the beef merit is markedly improved. On Eoin’s farm this means that calving difficulty is minimised and a quality crop of calves desirable to his customer is produced.

Eoin sells all his calves to Declan Butler. Declan runs a calf to beef enterprise in Knockanore, Co. Waterford. He requires all the information on the genetic make-up of the calf he is purchasing, to ensure it has the genetic potential to be taken through to slaughter profitably while meeting the market specifications at an early slaughter age.

Eoin and Declan work closely together so that the needs of both parties are understood and met.

Calf Selection

When selecting calves, Declan’s selection criteria is focussed primarily on the health and the genetic make-up of calves coming from both the sire and the dam. Based on his experience, Declan believes that there can be a difference of up to €400 between high and low genetic merit calves at slaughter. Declan’s target is to purchase calves in early spring and have the calves ready for the factory under 20 months, before their first winter, at an average carcass weight of 285 kgs.

Sourcing Quality Calves

In the past, one of Declan’s main challenges has been sourcing high genetic merit calves from the dairy herd with known lineage. Through the ABP Advantage Beef Programme, Declan is now in a position where he can source high genetic merit beef calves from the dairy herd. When selecting calves, Declan looks at the Commercial Beef Value (CBV) as a tool to help him determine a calf’s genetic potential. An increased focus on the selection of beef sires for the dairy herd and increased integration between the Dairy and Beef industry is crucial to help secure a sustainable future for both Irish dairy farmers and farmers running calf to beef enterprises.

ABP Advantage Beef Programme

The ABP Advantage Beef Programme was launched in 2022 and has made massive strides in the last year with over 55,000 dairy and suckler bred cattle signed up to the programme. Farmers have the opportunity to achieve an additional 20c/kg sustainability bonus in addition to their QA and breed bonuses.

ABP’s primary focus is to provide informed technical advice to farmers through the programme in order to ensure a more sustainable future for both the beef and dairy herds. A large focus has been placed on the use of high genetic merit beef sires, with a minimum genetic merit required to achieve the bonus. These higher genetic merit animals will deliver greater carcass weights and conformation leading to a reduced age of slaughter and a more profitable animal for the beef farmer and a more saleable beef calf for the dairy farmer with repeat customers.

Other requirements for the Advantage Beef Programme include a maximum of 2 residencies, animals must be all their life quality assured and must be weighed twice in their lifetime.

Sires for the upcoming Breeding Season

For more information on our full range of bulls for the upcoming breeding season, please visit Progressive Genetics or Munster Bovine.